I am home. Seven weeks of gallivanting through Asia, three episodes of tears, two bouts of food poisoning, an extra 6.3 kilograms of new wardrobe and many new friends later, I came home on a 38 degrees (Celsius) New Year's eve to a refrigerator half filled with furry eggs, melted butter, moldy cheese and jars of everything gone bad.
As I stood before the opened fridge door, having only had three hours of sleep in the past 36 hours, the waft of stale, warm air stung my nostrils. It seemed that the fridge had broken down while I was away.
Standing there, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. Instead I opted for a shower and a take-away Indian dinner before falling asleep at 11.30 p.m. The fridge would have to wait another day.
A few days later, I had lunch with a friend and told her about my trip - about where I had been, what I've learned, who I've met. As we talked, I couldn't help but think about a particular day that took place at T. Harv Eker's Making The Stage in Phuket so I told her about it.
I went to Phuket, thinking that I was going to refine my craft as a trainer, that I was preparing myself to embark on my new calling in life. Instead, I left with an opened Pandora box of my past, a glimpse of infinity and a discovery of my repressed fear of death. All that happened in one day.
On the third morning, when we were in the main room de-briefing after an exercise on modeling, I had asked Blair Singer a question.
"The one phrase that stuck in my mind was, 'Longevity has its place'," I said, referring to a line in Martin Luther King's speech.
"That's because you have a fear of death," he replied.
"I never thought I did," I responded after a moment's silence. What came out of my mouth following that surprised even me. "But I'm afraid I would die before I do what I'm supposed to do in this lifetime." And as I said that, tears welled up in my eyes.
Up until that point, I never knew I was afraid of dying. There were things I know I'm afraid of, dying just wasn't one of them, until then. When I was finished, I sank into my seat, grappling with that new found realization about myself. I don't remember what Blair said after that, all I remembered was hearing a lady in the audience saying, "But you are still so young."
At that point, I was still in denial. I'm more afraid that I would die being mediocre, I had thought afterwards.
When the session concluded, we went our separate ways to our day's rotation. That day, my rotation was in Blair Singer's room. We went through the Introduction template, prepared our speech and broke into smaller groups to rehearse. When it was my turn, I quickly ran out of words when I got to the part where I was supposed to tell my story. So before breaking for lunch, I asked him a question.
"I don't have a story for my ETR, what do I do? Do I just make one up?" I had asked innocently.
He looked at me and said, "If you only had ten minutes left to live and there is only one message you can give to the world, what would it be?"
Without hesitation, I had replied, "Be yourself."
As soon as those words left my lips, I felt as though a wave was coming at me, with the wall of water so fast and so high that I didn't know what I was supposed to do and where I was supposed to go. It was a feeling of being overwhelmed, a feeling that the task at hand was so mammoth, and so impossible, that I was paralyzed merely by the thought of it. Without realizing, tears started welling up in my eyes.
"You saw infinity, didn't you?" he asked then.
I nodded. I nodded because it was true - I had seen infinity and the size of it overwhelmed me and stirred up a fear within me that I had never known before.
When the feeling had subsided, and we went to lunch, I dried my tears but I still didn't have a story for my introduction.
That afternoon, when it was my turn to go on stage, I hadn't prepared myself for what was about to happen. Standing on stage in my grey shorts and black t-shirt, after I had gone through the first part of the introduction twice, told about my achievements as a three-time award winning author, I was out of words for my ETR.
He stood at the back of the room and waited. With arms folded across his chest, he finally asked me, "What happened in your childhood?"
I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat and, hesitantly, I started to answer him. As I began to speak, a sour sensation rushed up my nose and tears started welling up in my eyes.
"Breathe," he said. And I did. That's when it resurfaced - the memory of all those years feeling that I didn't belong, of knowing that I wasn't good enough and of being yelled at and beaten up. It was like the ghost of Christmas past had shown up, except that it wasn't Christmas and I wasn't dreaming. It was real. And all those years - they were real too.
Those minutes on stage felt like an eternity. All I remembered was answering his questions through my sobs, repeating what he said with whatever voice I had left as he helped me through my stumbling words. Eventually it came to an end, and through my tears, I saw that everyone was standing and giving me an ovation. I didn't know what to feel.
I learned several lessons that day:
I learned not to discount my past - as painful as it may be - because it has led me to where I am today.
I learned that just because I had made peace with it doesn't mean that the lessons are no longer important.
I learned not to undermine my own achievements as an author, even if my parents didn't think anything of them.
I learned that the childhood that I had was what got me started writing in the first place. Writing was the only way I knew how to cope, and at that time, most of what I wrote was fiction.
That day, on that stage, I saw my life in two distinct parts - the first was the years I spent running away from reality by hiding in the stories that I wrote; the second part, the more recent one, was the part where I started to confront all my demons and write about life as I've experienced it. And it was in the second part that I started to heal myself. It was also in the second part, that I began to heal others.
After I got off the stage, Blair Singer had said to me, "Maybe you should write about that." It was in that moment, that the pieces of the puzzle came together, even if all they were showing was just a small part of a bigger picture that I can't yet see.
I've always believed that each of us has a message within us that we are meant to deliver in our lifetime, that we are the glass bottles holding the parchment on which the messages were written, floating on the ocean of life until such time when we arrive on a beach and the messages are ready to be read and spread widely. I didn't know what mine was until that day.
Sometimes in life, we think we know where we are going, but we don't, not really. The Universe has its way of showing us our path, and even though it may not be as straightforward as we might have liked it to be, there is wisdom and intelligence behind it.
I believe that the Universe has a plan for every single one of us. What that plan is, we don't always know. All I know is that all we need to do is to take the next step, even if we can't see the entire path from where we are standing. I know now, that my purpose for going to Making The Stage wasn't to refine my craft as a trainer - that was just a bonus. I know now, that the true purpose for me being there was so that the pieces of the puzzle could come together and I would discover the message inside me that was mine to deliver.
I feel very grateful, and very blessed for the lessons that I've learned. I feel grateful for the people that I've met, who have taught me much about life, and about myself. But most of all, I feel grateful for myself, for seeing everything that has happened as a learning opportunity and for the wisdom to know that, whatever happens, the goal was always to lead me to finding the message within so that I can deliver it to others.
My hope for you is that you'll find yours too.
To your message in the bottle,
Copyright © 2010 Chiao Kee Lim
"Chiao Kee Lim is the owner of the copyright to this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any for or by any means without the prior written permission of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form other than that in which it is published. Any reproduction, amendments, edits and/or re-posting on any other medium apart from those authorized by the author will be dealt with under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."
She won her first award with the short story A New Day at the age of 16, and was subsequently invited to a week-long writing workshop for teenagers. She then went on to win first prize in a
short-story writing competition for non-native speakers with How Beautiful Is The Snow when she was 21. This was then followed by the award winning Crossing The Borders in the following year. Her stories have
since been published in multiple anthologies, one of which adopted How Beautiful Is The Snow as its title.|
Read more about Chiao at her website: www.thedirty30sclub.com
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